Piano Illiterature Vol. I of II
Somewhat to my astonishment, people have been downloading both the audio files to Volume 1 of this "Piano Illiterature" & the explanatory notes. BUT ONLY TO VOLUME 1! Why?! Hey, people! Volume 2's "Interpretive Duncing" is one of the best things I've ever done! Anyway, because people have discovered this material, I've decided to write this brief intro & to finally add the descriptions of the last 3 pieces after "Bogus Piano Concerto". SO, why do I call this "Piano Illiterature"? As those of you who've read some of my (M)Usic writings have probably picked up on, I love (some) classical music but I'm also critical of the 'Golden Age' mentality that most classical radio stns perpetuate - & I like to play w/ classical music in my Low Classical Usician tricksterish way. Hence pieces like "Fuer Her" & "C Major Chord", etc.. Obviously, "Piano Illiterature" is a pun off of "Piano Literature". The term "literature", in music referring to the score, places what I consider to be undue emphasis on the way the score "reads" & too little emphasis on the way a piece SOUNDS. As a d composer who's mainly worked w/ unconventional notation & w/ recording & editing, traditional notation is something that I've never learned very well (hence I'm borderline 'illiterate' in it) &/or found much use for. Given that ORAL culture is focused more on SOUND & that LITERATE culture is focused more on visual systems of reference & that ORAL cultures are often illiterate, I embrace my own traditional notation 'illiteracy' here by designating my work "Illiterature". (Strictly speaking, though, I shd interpolate that these days I'm relearning conventional notation & playing a little Satie, Cage, Tchaikovsky, & Antheil, etc.. so I'm not REALLY so 'illiterate' after all..)
Run time 79:47
"Fuer Her" - 1982? - 3:49 - baby grand piano: Amy Plamondon
I've read that Beethoven's "Für Elise" was actually entitled
"Für Therese" & was dedicated to Therese Malfatti, one of his pupils.
This dedication is said to have been written while he was so drunk
that his handwriting was unreadable to the publisher - leading to its
having been read, after Beethoven's death, as "Für Elise" instead
- that then being the name that stuck. When I started playing piano & reading
scores again at age 16, after a lapse of perhaps 7 years, I didn't play
the accidentals (the sharps & flats) - thinking them to be superfluous.
This is, therefore, "Für Therese" without its accidentals - in honor of
accidents & dedicated to my generalized love for women. "Für" is
written as "Fuer" in the title because in the score that I had for "Für Elise"
that's the way it was written - probably as a form of transliteration
without the use of diacritical marks unfamiliar to most English speakers.
Keeping it "Fuer" seemed to fit into the spirit of things. The title can obviously
also be read as a pun on the German word "Führer", which means "leader",
& which is probably most associated with Hitler. As such, the whole piece
can be interpreted as a slight poke at Our Leader: Beethoven & the
(not-so) "Golden Age" of Classical Music in general.
"Select Sustain #1 @ Quadruple Speed:
It's Not As Easy As You Might Think To Be A Pseudo-Virtuoso #1"
- 1985 - 6:44 - select sustain baby grand piano: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
Some pianos have 3 pedals: 1 for shifting the hammers so that they hit
2 instead of 3 strings in the multi-string clusters so that the volume's lower:
sometimes called the "softness" pedal; 1 for unmuting all the strings so that
they continue to sound after the key is released: sometimes called the "sustain"
pedal; & 1 to unmute whatever strings are being played at the time the pedal
is depressed: which I call the "select sustain" pedal. In 1985, I was experimenting
with selectively sustaining notes & then basing improvisations around the
resultant harmonic (etc) possibilities created not only by the sustains but also by the
sympathetic vibrations. The 1st 2 were recorded as a sortof impromptu concert
in a church that would allow me access to their baby grand during a time when
their hall was being used as a meeting place for "transitionals" - ie: 'schizophrenic'/
'maladaptive' outpatients. I kept all of the black keys unmuted throughout.
This allowed me to play the black keys as an unmuted pentatonic scale
(with the sustain giving that typical 'dreamy' effect that sustain is so overused for)
& to bounce back & forth contrastingly between staccatos on the white keys
& the sustain blacks, etc, etc.. The recording of this was then sped-up to
quadruple speed - thusly increasing the overall pitch by 2 octaves & shortening
the piece to a quarter of its original length. The resultant speed gives the shallow
illusion of 'virtuosity' in my playing. I call these sped-up piano pieces:
"It's Not As Easy As You Might Think To Be A Pseudo-Virtuoso" both to ridicule
my own lack of virtuosity AND to point out that I really did put enough thought into
the whole improvisation & process for the piece to still have its merits.
"Select Sustain #3 @ Quadruple Speed:
It's Not As Easy As You Might Think To Be A Pseudo-Virtuoso #3"
- 1985 - 7:53 - select sustain prepared upright piano: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
See the notes for "Select Sustain #1" as an introduction to this.
The 1st 2 "Select Sustain" pieces were recorded using a baby grand piano
that was only altered by selectively unmuting certain strings that stayed that way
for the entire duration of the improvisation. #1 had the black keys unmuted,
#2 half the keyboard unmuted (a whole-tone scale); #s 3 & 4 involved using a
not completely in-tune upright that was altered beyond just sustain: 3 had
A, B, C#, D#, F, & G unmuted (again, a whole-tone scale) but with the additional
complication of C, D#, F#, & A (a diminished 3rd chord) having screws in the strings.
The insertion of the screws, of course, changes the pitches of the strings so that
both the sustained & non-sustained whole-tone scales have 2 notes each disrupted.
"Sequence 004: C Major Chord (tempo varied version)" - 1994 - :29
- sampler/sequencer + algorithm synthesizer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
From 1994 to 1997 I worked on a series of modular pieces meant to be mixed
live in what I called "Triple-S Variety Shows". Over 118 of these components were
sequences. Their names are usually meant to be purely functional descriptions.
These sequences were meant to be played & manipulated live in conjunction
with other sounds (& visuals) &, as such, weren't really meant to be listened to as
separate pieces. Nonetheless, they were/are short compositions - basically studies
of varied technical potentials of the equipment I was using combined with forays
into musical theory ranging anywhere from simple to complex to parodistic to serious,
etc.. These were then recorded: 1st in "basic" form (without any live manipulation
of the sequence) & then, usually, in a less simple form. Hence, this is a "tempo
varied version" in which I change the tempo of the playback slightly. There's also
the added factor of a simulated harpsichord also being driven by the sequence.
Some of the non-"basic" playings of the sequences are complex & some of the sequences are meant to be manipulated in specific ways. Most of the straight sequences presented in "Piano Illiterature" are deliberately simple. "C Major Chord" is a prime example of this. In my "Sequences" notebook in which I made minimal notes for myself about what I was attempting to do with each sequence I wrote:
"Taking advantage of the overdubbing capacity of the sequencer, I play only the notes of the most familiar “consonant” equal tempered tuning chord in a way that gives this simple presentation the virtuosity & sound of a “Classical” piece. On the disc [meaning the floppy disc on which the sequence is saved] I describe this as ““Random” “Perky” Arpeggiation”. I recorded the sequence at the mid-tempo default value of 48 & at the slower speeds of 24 & 36 so that when it’s played back at 48 parts of it are quicker than the original playing. Intended for Piano sample."
A part of the humor of making such a simple-minded piece as this is to take the minimum of what constitutes 'Western' music & to turn it into something that sounds 'believably' like what some people might consider to be 'good' music with very little effort + a trifle of technical trickery.
"Sequence 005: Blues in C (basic)" - 1994 - :38
- sampler/sequencer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
See the notes for "C Major Chord" as an introduction to this.
"This is very similar in technical approach to the preceding ["C Major Chord"] except that the “blue notes” are added to the C major chord: ie: the minor 3rd & the dominant 7th. Rather than 3 layers of sequence recording there are 6: 1 @ 48, 2 @ 40, 3 @ 42. Also intended for Piano sample."
"Sequence 006: Downwardly Cascading Runs (basic)" - 1994 - :14
- sampler/sequencer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
See the notes for "C Major Chord" as an introduction to this.
"The title is sufficiently descriptive. This is another 1 intended for Piano sample."
In the context of a Triple-S Variety Show this might've been used as a transition.
"Sequence 013: Perky Effected Piano Sample + Piano Driver (basic)" - 1994 - :53
- sampler/sequencer + wave-table synthesizer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
See the notes for "C Major Chord" as an introduction to this. This piece is particularly
poor on its own. However, I still think it has its value within the "Piano Illiterature"
context. From the very beginning these sequences often had built-in pauses designed
to be filled with live improvisations of a nature particular to the piece.
"I created 4 related samples in this 4-way split. The DX27S Uprt Piano sound (Normal Mode, Group 1, 02) was fed into the Mirage thru the Multi-Verb w/ a different effect on each sample. The results are pretty unspectacular. The lowest sample is effected by the Barber Pole Flan[ge] (052) & the highest by the Space Shift (053) - 2 of the more obvious effects.
For the sequence I play a very simple repetition in Eb Natural Minor of descending F, F, Eb, Db, B (ascending to) Gb; (descending again) F, F, Eb, Db, B. Because these samples were made when sampling was still new to me, they had loud clicks on their beginnings. Therefore, this sequence was also meant to drive a K1m Piano sound simultaneously to mask the sample clicks. This is no longer necessary because I’ve since removed the clicks but in the tape version here I still also drive the K1m Digi Piano sound (Single IA-3).
This sequence has a sustain at the end of each playing of the theme wch allows the effect(s) to be more clearly heard & allows for a live playing of the theme as a response to the sequenced playing. The idea is that each time the theme is played live the sound played should change. In this variation for the tape the sequence is looped to allow more time."
The variation referred to in the last paragraph is NOT the "basic" version & is, therefore, not the version heard here. The "DX27S" is the algorithm synthesizer that I was using to both create some sounds on & as my main MIDI controller of the other devices. The "Mirage" is the sampler/sequencer. The "Multi-Verb" is an effects unit. The "K1m" is a type of wave-table synthesizer that I had 2 of & which were wonderful for sound creation. These were some of the main tools I was using at the time.
"Sequence 067: Mood Elevator Uzak for that Exhausting One Hour Work Week
of the Near Future (shortest version)" - 1995 - 6:46
- sampler/sequencer + 2 wave-table synthesizers: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
See the preceding notes as an introduction to this. I've published a tape of 2 half-hour
versions of this. Its original title was "New Age Intermission". As with many of my
non-descriptive titles, the intention was to be self-deprecating because, superficially,
the harmonies of this are so 'pretty' & the melody is so 'non-aggressive'. Since I don't
like New Age music I was ambiguously implying that this was either music that was so
simple-minded that it was the INTERMISSION music to a New Age concert - but, then
again, I might've been implying that this was a BREAK from New Age music instead.
However, as I think the notes below somewhat explain, there's more hear than
superficially meets the ear. Hence I decided to change the title to something a bit
more expressive of the subtleties of the piece.
"I wish I remembered how I did this better than I do. This sequence is made to drive both of my K1ms at the same time. On K1m#1 I created 2 relevant voices: Multi ED-6: WTpiSEQ OR (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence Original) & Multi EB-4: NOT EXACT. On K1m#2 I created 9 relevant voices: Multi EB-4: SIMPLIFIER, Multi ED-1: WT PI SEQa (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence A), Multi ED-2: WT PI SEQb (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence B), Multi ED-3: WT PI SEQc (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence C), Multi ED-4: WT PI SEQd (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence D), Multi ED-5: WT PI SEQe (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence E), Multi ED-6: WT PI SEQf (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence F), Multi ED-7: WT PI SEQg (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence G), & Multi ED-8: WT PI SEQh (Whole Tone Pitch Sequence H).
These voices all exploit the mini-sequence capabilities of the K1m - meaning that the pressing of 1 key usually yields more than 1 note if it’s held down for the full duration of the relevant envelope. Since analyzing the Whole Tone Pitch Sequence Original is probably most important for understanding this, here’s a partial explanation of it:
This consists of a combination of 8 single voices: Piano Sequences 1-8. These sequences have delayed response times to key-down of gradually increasing length: 1 is set to 40, 2 is set to 59, 3 is set to 70, 4 is set to 75, 5 is set to 76, 6 is set to 77, 7 is set to 78, & 8 is set to 79. This is what results in there being a sequence of pitches rather than a chord when they’re played “simultaneously” as part of a multi.
In the multi configuration, the original pitches of these piano sounds are transposed. 1 is transposed down from a fixed F#4 3 whole tones to C4, 2 is transposed up 2 whole tones, 3 is transposed up 3 whole tones, 4 is transposed up from a fixed C 4 5 whole tones to A#4, 5 is transposed down 6 whole tones, 6 is transposed up 4 whole tones, 7 is transposed down 1 whole tone, & 8 is transposed down 2 whole tones. What this means is that when, e.g., while playing Whole Tone Pitch Sequence Original, C2 is pressed, the following sequence plays: C4, E2, F#2, A#4, C1 (an octave lower), G#2, A#1 (a whole tone lower), & G#1 (2 whole tones lower). In other words, all of the notes wd be in the same whole tone scale but none of them wd be C2!
To make matters more complicated, the fixed notes always stay the same. Therefore, if a D5 is pressed, the following sequence plays: C4, F#5, G#5, A#4, D4, A#5, C5, & A#4. It’s even possible for 2 notes of the same pitch to play in sequence. E.g.: If G#3 is pressed, then the 1st 2 pitches are both C4.
Add to that the “simultaneous” playing of 1 of the relevant voices of K1m#2 & an even more complicated sequence potential results. Take, e.g., Whole Tone Pitch Sequence A. It consists of a combination of the 8 single voices: Piano Sequences A-H (not 1-8). These sequences also have delayed response times to key-down of gradually increasing length: A is set to 50, B is set to 65, C is set to 74, D is set to 80, E is set to 81, F is set to 82, G is set to 83, & H is set to 84. Note that none of these #s overlap w/ the delay times of Piano Sequences 1-8.
Again, in the multi configuration, the pitches of these piano sounds are transposed. “#”A is transposed down 3 whole tones, “#”B is transposed up from a fixed F#4 6 whole tones to F#5, “#”C is transposed down 1 whole tone, “#”D is transposed up 12 whole tones, “#”E is transposed down from a fixed A#4 8 whole tones to F#3, “#”F is transposed down from a fixed F#3 12 whole tones to F#1, “#”G is transposed down 1 whole tone, & “#”H is transposed up 4 whole tones.
In the Whole Tone Pitch Sequence Original, the even #ed single piano sounds are put to the left & the odds are put to the right. In the Whole Tone Pitch Sequence A, this is reversed so that the odds are to the left & the evens are to the right.
As such, if the 2 voices given as examples are played “simultaneously” by pressing G#2 the result wd be the following sequence: (R)C4, (L)D2, (L)C3, (R)F#5, (R)D3, (L)F#2, (L)A#4, (R)G#1, (L)E3,(R)F#2, (L)E2, (R)G#4, (L)F#3, (R)F#1, (L)F#2, & (R)E3. Note that in this example there are 2 Cs, 2 Ds, 6 F#s, 1 A#, 2 G#s, & 3 Es. All of the notes of this whole tone scale are represented but not in approximately equal proportions of either 2 or 3 as might be the case if the total # of 16 notes were divided by the 6 notes of the scale to produce an average.
Now, to get to the overall meta-sequence at hand. This starts w/ C2 & ascends in whole steps to C7. It then descends 1 half-step to B6 & descends in whole steps to C#2. Both whole tone scales are covered. However, during the ascent all pitches played are a part of the same whole tone scale but, during the descent, the fixed pitches provide 3 deviations that don’t fit w/ the rest of the whole tone scale being played: C (C4), A# (A#4), & F# (F#5, 3, & 01. This somewhat “subverts” the “New Age SAPPINESS” of pure whole tone scales.
1 of the things that interests me about this seemingly simple 6:35 progression is that while the rhythm stays basically the same & the pitch sets stay deceptively similar, there’s actually a substantial amount of variations that almost get lost in the listening because of their relative subtlety. The fixed pitches insure that w/ each new “key-down” played a different set of sequential intervals is generated & not just a new set of pitches! The version recorded here is a simple run-thru of the sequence once. In the hr long version that’s recorded elsewhere many other permutations are generated."
Ok, OK! I can practically hear my friend Germaine (who's uploading this material
for me) groaning in torment from these dry, technical, academic descriptions.
However, much as it may be self-deluding, I think there's probably someone SOMEWHERE out there who is actually interested in such d compositional details!
"A Year & a Day at the Funny Farm BOGUS PIANO CONCERTO
in 2 rapid bowel movements: 1. Left Wing Movement - Take 5" - 1995 - 22:31
"A Year & a Day at the Funny Farm BOGUS PIANO CONCERTO
in 2 rapid bowel movements: 1. Chicken Wing Movement - Take 5" - 1995 - 22:37
- algorithm synthesizer: John Henry Nyenhuis
- 2 wave-table synthesizers, sampler/sequencer, MIDI-patcher, effects,
3 4-channel mixers: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
I've released the 6th take of the "Bogus Piano Concerto" on cassette with a liner note booklet & as part of my "Low Classical Usic" CD without those notes. The tape was 'reviewed' ONCE that I 'know' of by a person who must've died quite some time ago without anyone noticing that only his body was still moving. Below is a reproduction of the cassette liner notes + his 'review' + my reply to it. The 5th take that's presented here is somewhat different in details from the 6th take but most of the overall form information still applies.
notes re the A Year & A Day at the Funny Farm
Bogus Piano Concerto
in 2 Rapid Bowel Movements:
1: Left Wing Movement, 2: Chicken Wing Movement
This “Bogus Piano Concerto” was created more or less in 1 night during a time of manic intuitive inspiration as an outgrowth of a year’s experimentation with & development of, the use of specific sound producing/controlling equipment. I find it hard to “justify” it. It represents no substantial innovation & doesn’t make any focused point.
It’s not a clear example of a clear philosophy. I wouldn’t call it important. It’s far from meeting the criteria of complexity that I usually prefer.
My intention isn’t even to tritely “rebel against” the piano or the concerto. I enjoy listening to it immensely but consider that to be a dubious “reason” for presenting it to a public. Of course, there’s the hope that a public will enjoy it too - thusly making me feel that there’s a psychic connection between the audience & myself that “requires” no intellectual rationale. My enjoyment of this “Concerto” may be too easily dismissed (by myself as well as others) as “egomania”.
It’s a “Bogus Piano Concerto” because it’s played with synthesizers, a sampler, a sequencer, a midi-patcher, an effects unit, & mixers. The piano-like sounds are simulations & samples - bogus. It’s somewhat a “Bogus Concerto” because it’s not based on any aspect of the typical concerto form other than in its use of the contrast between the “solo” instrument & the “orchestration”.
Obviously, even this is bogus because the same instruments are producing both sounds. The word “bogus” is not used deprecatingly. I have no interest in creating a concerto. I’m even “embarrassed” to have the words “piano” & “concerto” in the title.
The other elements of the title are obviously just a silly quasi-subversion of the traditionalism of the “Piano Concerto” label.
Its form is fairly simple. The sequencer/sampler & the keyboard are used to midi-control themselves, 2 Kawai K1m synthesizers, & each other. Which controls which when varies. Basically, there are “islands of drama” connected by “bridges of focus”. There is not an overall dramatic form in the sense of a sexual build-up, climax, & relaxation. Ideally(?), when it ends, the audience should be left with a feeling that the “concerto” has simply stopped connecting the possible “islands” with possible “bridges” but that the structure continues to exist.
Only three 333 note sequences are used. The 1st 2 are each one minute long & are in the 1st movement. Both were created originally for bass harmonica & harmonica samples. However, other sustainable sounds with moderately rich harmonics, such as that of a tamboura, can also be used. The 3rd sequence, used in the 2nd movement, was created for a K1m sound programmed by myself called “AUTOBEND”.
It’s otherwise intended to primarily drive any of my stereo “multi” sounds. K1m sounds are divided into 2 categories: “single” & “multi”. “Multi”s are combinations of from 2 to 8 “single”s.
Typical factory provided synthesizer sounds have little or no delay between when the key depression triggers the attack of the sound envelopes. Furthermore, these envelopes tend to have no substantial change occur if the sound is sustained for a long time & no substantial change as a result of key release - other than an instant stopping of the sound or a gradual fading out.
The sounds that I program tend to deviate from this pattern. Up to a 32 note phrase from the K1m can be triggered by holding down 1 key. Thus, each key becomes a switch for a miniature sequencer.
This is further complicated by what the range of each of the 8 “single”s is within the “multi”. In other words, depressing middle C may trigger all of the “single”s within the “multi” but pressing the lowest C might only activate one.
In most instances, this equipment is limited to 8 note polyphony (meaning that only 8 notes can be played at once). Therefore, how long a sustain on any given key is allowed to continue is partially determined by whether a simultaneously or subsequently played key is triggering a number of notes that causes an exceeding of the 8 note limit - resulting in an arpeggio of a chord or in a superceding of elements of the previous key(s).
Combining the midi-controlling of multiple instruments, each with complex wave forms, can result in even more variables. If one synthesizer is tuned in 10th tones, while another is in 16th tones, either both can be played simultaneously or a rapid switching between the 2 can be accomplished. One synthesizer might play a sequence with substantial pauses between its units while another might play a continuous sound with glissandi.
Given these many variables, the keyboard playing has less to do with "pianistic" virtuosity than it does with a knowledge of which envelopes will be triggered, what their characteristics are when combined, how they change when sustained, & when the polyphony limitations will clip them, etc..
As such, this “Bogus Piano Concerto” is bogus because its most unique characteristics are those most contrary to piano technique. The use of “piano-like” sounds & the word “Concerto” in the title are somewhat intended to arouse expectations of pianistic virtuosity which can then be gone contrary to in the actual keyboard technique used.
I have very limited traditional keyboard playing skill. This “concerto” was thusly created for myself. In my playing of it, easily played one note repetitions & trills are “thematic” material. These stark elements are the “bridges of focus” that connect the “islands of drama” of the generally sequencer-activated “orchestrations”.
The 1st movement’s 1st sequence is simply a held 8 note chord in which each introduction of a new note results in the replacement of an older one. When the sound driven by the sequence is the harmonica sound (or something similar) the result is a subtly shifting sonority. When the sound driven is a sound without indefinitely sustainable characteristics (such as the percussive sound of a piano) the result is abrupt & fast. Which instrument is controlling which other instrument can make drastic differences between successive repetitions of the same sequence.
The 1st movement’s 1st sequence is repeated an indefinite number of times during roughly 1/2 to 2/3rds of the projected length of the movement. Then the 2nd, very similar, sequence replaces it.
The 2nd sequence has a held 8 note chord thruout with a fast sequence of notes leading to its end. Both sequences are played with pauses between their repetitions. However, the pauses between the repetitions of the 2nd sequence depend on limitations of the sequencer. This sequence is programmed in such a way that when the fast section plays it “overloads” the machine & causes it to break down & play a slightly unpredictable pattern. This necessitates a rebooting of the machine in order for the sequence to be played again.
The 2nd movement’s sequence is approximately 6 & 1/2 minutes long when played at its average speed & it’s played continuously in a loop. Since it was programmed while triggering an indefinitely sustainable sound, if it triggers sounds with shorter envelopes, once again, the differences will be substantial. Which “island of drama” is the most “dramatic” depends upon which type of wave-form is being triggered. Simply holding one key down for an envelope that needs to be sustained for its full effect may only produce a quick & quiet plunk with another sound.
A fast sequence might be more effective in displaying the unique tuning of the “plunking” sound but might clip the richness of the sound with the longer envelope. Both elements are used in the sequence. It was also designed to fully exploit certain stereo possibilities.
This “concerto” can be said to represent what I call “modular d comprovisation” - meaning analytically composed modular units played & related to improvisationally. Its fixed elements are the sequences & their placements in the movements, the centrality of the piano-like sounds, the linking of “dramatic” moments by non-crescendo oriented playing, the variety of midi-controlling, &, especially, the variety of wave-forms used.
Otherwise, what happens is “open”. This means that there are no specific notes to be played in the “piano” part & no specific order that the sounds triggered by the sequencer must follow. It means that sometimes the keyboard playing might be triggering sounds in addition to the “piano-like” ones & sometimes not. With the exception of a few loose somewhat predictable “tendencies” not gone into here, variety & surprise are encouraged.
The 1st playing of this “Bogus Piano Concerto” was by myself. A variation on having this be a one-person playing is to divide the controlling possibilities into 2 parts. One being that of the keyboardist who only plays the keys, the sustain/portamento & volume pedals, & the pitch & modulation wheels. The other being that of the person who controls everything else - such as the midi-patching, the sound-choosing, the mixing, & the effects.
For a presentation at the Music Gallery in Toronto I chose this 2 role division. The keyboard playing role went to John Henry Nyenhuis. John was chosen precisely because he’s everything as a pianist that I’m not. He can play more complex figures with either of his hands (he’s “left-handed”) than I can with both hands together (in a certain way at least).
He’s familiar enough with the specific pitches of the typically even-tempered tuning of the piano to play melodies correctly with his eyes closed. He’s capable of sustaining a precise rhythmic pattern while intricately deviating from it with great nuance. And, he has a huge repertoire of other people’s music & a large variety of genre styles.
John partially supports himself as a lounge pianist & creates piano sound for silent movies - he’s even been called upon to play a fire organ. I’ve heard him referred to as a “human juke-box” because of his extraordinary abilities to fluidly play a variety of popular styles. As such, he’s an archetype of exactly the type of pianist that this “bogus concerto” was not created for!
Choosing to play with John was not only an expression of my extreme admiration for his skill, but was also intended to create a mutually subverting conflict between our 2 roles. He wasn’t in complete control of what sounds his playing triggered & what sounds the “orchestration” had, & I wasn’t in control of how he exploited the potentials of the sounds.
His instructions were basically to play only quotes & styles in the 1st movement. These are limited to being played just long enough to have enough content to be recognizable to someone familiar with what’s being referred to - with a maximum time being approximately 15 seconds per quote/style.
If I gave him a hand signal, he was to have the “liberty” to change keyboard settings - otherwise he was to stay with a particular piano sound only. In the 2nd movement, he was to play no quotes or pop music styles. If he found himself playing either (apparently, he didn’t), he was to immediately stop playing for at least 10 seconds.
He was further instructed to play furiously at the beginning - demonstrating the virtuosity of his technique & to gradually slow down until he played very minimally by the end of the 1st movement. This process was then to be reversed in the 2nd movement.
In keeping with the “conflict” between his playing & my playing, the density of what the audience witnessing this “live” heard didn’t jive with the density of what they saw being played. In other words, in the beginning of the 2nd movement the touching of one key could trigger a sequence - thusly belying the usual key-to-note ratio expected. But, by the end, fast playing of many pitches could be controlled by me to only produce one pitch at a time. This subtle oddity was partially designed to make the “concerto” “concert” (or uncert) more interesting to watch for the more alert members of the audience. I usually find straight-forward concerts to be very dull to watch regardless of how interesting they may be to listen to.
In concerts in which no novel technique is being used for the production of the sounds the personalities of the players & their dexterity are the main visual stimulus. In this case, the “reward” for paying attention to the keyboardist’s technique would be to be surprised by the afore-mentioned disparity.
After hearing one of these recordings of the BPC, my step-brother said something about the relationship between the “piano” part & the “orchestration” making “no sense” to him. In an attempt to explain my intention I developed the analogy that the 1st movement is like a tightrope walker’s marathon thru a variety of weather conditions.
Regardless of whether there’s a thunder-storm or intense sunlight, the keyboardist’s challenge is to maintain a focused course.
In the 2nd movement the challenge is more of a maze or an obstacle course. There are basically 5 different sections that involve unusual keyboard-to-sounds-produced relationships. 1st, the keys sound samples of piano phrases - the keyboardist not only produces more than one note by only striking one key but can also trigger combinations of trills & phrases that would be physically impossible under ordinary conditions.
2nd, the striking of one key can produce a sequence with as many as 16 pitches in a complexly varying form - this introduces a melodic logic (or “melogic”) difficult for the keyboardist to predict exactly without knowing the programming structure.
3rd, the keyboard triggers a playing of 10th-tones rather than the typical half-tones - with the adjacent note relationship not being directly incremental: more explicitly: within each octave the notes are a half-tone apart, but each octave is only a 10th-tone apart .
Therefore, to play all 60 pitches of the octave in direct order, the keyboardist has to 1st play, e.g., “C” in the lowest octave, then in the next octave, etc.. - returning to “C#” & repeating the process, etc..
4th, the keyboard triggers 16th-tones: 4 notes at one pitch for one percussion sound adjacent to 4 two note chords one 16th-tone apart made by a combination of the 1st percussion sound & the next single note sound (adjacent to the combination), etc.. - playing the full length of the keyboard only covers one half-tone.
5th, at any given time at the end, the keyboard playing might produce either the typical chromatic set of pitches or only one of a set of 8 pitches or a mix between these 2 possibilities. This last can change the focus from “melodic” to rhythmic without the keyboardist’s changing their keys-played-sequence at all.
In the process of reworking the structure of this “concerto” with John Henry, the original “islands of drama” connected by “bridges of focus” became somewhat transformed into a “navigation of drama” by “vehicles of focus” or some such - at any rate, I hope that you can still imagine after the “end” “that the structure [still] continues to exist” or, better yet, persist.
- these notes were written July 29th, 1995ev
& updated February 6th, 1996ev
Glenn Engstrand is, without doubt, the biggest shit-for-brains excuse-for-a-reviewer I've ever encountered. He's an utter disgrace to any standards of scholarliness, intelligence, imagination, & ethics. Thanks to his complete stupidity, I've removed my recommended link to "the improvisor" from my web-site. See the below:
From: "the improvisor" website - us@:
Bogus Piano Concerto - Cassette - tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE (various),
John Henry Nyenhuls (DX27S Synthesizer)
This tape is a long series of very recognizable melodic phrases from various musical sources including classical, pop, TV and movie theme songs. It sounds like a MIDI file that was downloaded to the cassette.
The photocopied, cassette sized liner book (printed using technology that is no longer available) is fairly appologetic about the derivative nature of this work.
- Glenn Engstrand
tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE responds (unpublished):
Glenn Engstrand definitely wins the STUPIDEST EXCUSE FOR A REVIEWER AWARD OF THE YEAR FOR THE ABOVE (& for his 'review' of 014 - Livid @ the Schmaltzwald)! Even gracing the above with the name "review" is giving him entirely too much credit.
1st, this tape is not "a long series of very recognizable melodic phrases from various musical sources including classical, pop, TV and movie theme songs". That's a description of the 1st 1:08. There're another 44:00 which Engstrand apparently didn't listen to. 2nd, while it may sound to Engstrand "like a MIDI file that was downloaded to the cassette", this was played LIVE WITH NO OVERDUBS by 2 people. The closest it comes to what Engstrand refers to is my use of sequences. However, even these sequences are manipulated live & are only a part of what's happening overall.
Engstrand's 'review' consists of 3 sentences. Of these measley 3, Engstrand found it somehow important to comment on the printing of the booklet! Incorrectly, of course. He notes that it was "photocopied" (at least he got that much right) but was "printed using technology that is no longer available". Let's ignore the basic idiocy of that statement's implying that photocopying is no longer available & get to what he probably meant: the 'master' from which the printing was done was done using a dot-matrix printer. Sorry Glenn, would I have gotten 4 sentences if I'd used a laser printer?
Finally, this abysmal moron writes that the "liner book [..] is fairly appologetic about the derivative nature of this work." Putting aside the inevitable typos & misspellings that people with 1:08 attention spans manage to squeeze into even a 3 sentence text, I want to call attention to the liner book's certainly not being apologetic about anything! The "Bogus Piano Concerto" is exactly what I wanted it to be & I'm quite proud of it. It certainly isn't derivative because of using quotes any more than a person speaking is 'derivative' for using words. Judging from this shit-for-brain's statement, you'd think that I wrote something like "Don't listen to this - I'm just copying so-&-so - I have no idea what I'm doing." I've reproduced the entire liner book text above so that you can know what the booklet does say.
I assume that what Engstrand is referring to is the somewhat self-deprecating tone of the introductory paragraphs. I write "I find it hard to "justify" it. It represents no substantial innovation & doesn't make any focused point. It's not a clear example of a clear philosophy. I wouldn't call it important. It's far from meeting the criteria of complexity that I usually prefer." Rather than being apologetic, I feel that I was simply being honest. In the world of experimental classical or 'avant-garde' music there's an emphasis on always telling the audience how innovative the composers/players are. Much of the time, such innovations are overly hyped. I could've easily taken that tact myself. Instead, I preferred to downplay the pompousness of such attitudes in favor of questioning. Instead of telling the listener how important I am, I wrote "I enjoy listening to it immensely but consider that to be a dubious "reason" for presenting it to a public. Of course, there's the hope that a public will enjoy it too - thusly making me feel that there's a psychic connection between the audience & myself that "requires" no intellectual rationale. My enjoyment of this "Concerto" may be too easily dismissed (by myself as well as others) as "egomania"." Perhaps I should've followed Dali's strategy & written "I'm the world's greatest d composer - not because I'm so great but because everybody else is so BAD."
Somehow, Engstrand didn't find it noteworthy to mention that the liner notes explain that 10th tones & 16th tones are used. Somehow, Engstrand didn't find it noteworthy to mention why I called the piece "Bogus". Somehow, Engstrand didn't find it noteworthy to mention the terminology of "modular d comprovisation". Of course, Engstrand doesn't even bother to get into the 2nd movement (which contains NO quotes) because he never made it that far. Why bother to pretend to review something if you're not even going to listen to it, you asshole?! Engstrand doesn't even mention ANYTHING other than a little of John Henry's part - MY playing isn't mentioned at all. Imagine reviewing a duet & only barely describing what 1 player plays & not mentioning the other player at all! It would've at least been funny if Engstrand would've reviewed a Beethoven piano concerto in terms of something as ephemeral as how many times the pianist pressed the sustain pedal (getting the number wrong of course) & not mentioning the orchestration at all - but Engstrand's got the sense of humor of the Killing Fields.
Why do worthless cretins like Engstrand exist at all? Ah! Here we get into the utterly vapid world of 'improvisors' today. 1st, if you find 1 who actually improvises rather than imitating the STYLE of what improvising's 'supposed to sound like' you'll be lucky. Engstrand, like all the other improvisor reviewers except for LaDonna Smith, is a horn player. What a yawn that is. You KNOW, rock musicians play guitars & drums - & jazz musicians play saxophones - & improvising is what jazz players do. What an utter cliché all that shit is. Oh gosh, can those guys really blow. Or is it suck?! If I never hear another passionate individualist horn player sounding just like all the other passionate individualist horn players, it certainly won't be my loss.
Since Engstrand didn't bother to listen to the "Bogus Piano Concerto" before reviewing it & didn't bother to read the booklet before paraphrasing it, here's a review of a concert by Engstrand that I've never heard.
Glenn Engstrand Live
Sometimes he played fast & squeaky & sometimes he played slow. Then he muted the bell of his thing with his knee. Nothing new. Either way, he's a lousy guitarist. Oh yeah, there were 6 other people playing with him but I didn't hear what they did because I was outside the venue the whole time.
THAT's a far more honest & accurate review of EVERY concert Engstrand has EVER played than his 'review' of the "Bogus Piano Concerto". At least I managed to eke out 5 whole sentences.
"Sequence 077: Variable Dynamics Piano Driver #1 - Ersatz 20th Century" - 1996 - :32
- sampler/sequencer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
1 of the ‘problems’ of controlling my modules w/ my DX27 keyboard is that it’s not pressure sensitive. This means that I can’t control dynamics in a way that sounds natural for acoustic simulations. E.g.: I can’t hit the keys hard & have a loud piano sound result. I can only control the volume w/ the unconvincing & clumsy use of volume controls (either manual or foot-pedal activated). To try to solve this somewhat, I made a piano sample in wch different notes have different volumes:
C2-F#2 = loudest
G2-D3 = soft
D#3-B3 = loud
C4-A4 = mid
A#4-F5 = mid-soft
F#5-C6 = softest
C#6-C7 = loudest
Thus, by playing different notes, I can simulate 6 different degrees of intensity of attack. This sequence uses a simple motif of intervals played melodically. This intervals motif is played in all of the dynamics areas in a rigid mechanical way. The “Ersatz 20th Century” aspect of it refers to the borderline serialist tone-row nature of the use of a fixed group of intervals playing different pitches.
"Sequence 079: Variable Dynamics Piano Driver #2 - Slightly More 'Realistic'" - 1996 - 1:24
- sampler/sequencer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
Unlike Variable Dynamics Piano Driver #1 this sequence is an attempt @ a more “natural” piano sound thru a simulation of how the dynamics might ordinarily be played. E.g.: when a loud sound is played, it’s allowed to sustain..
"Sequence 116: Upper Revivified Piano Driver (basic)" - 1996 or 97 - 4:57
- sampler/sequencer: tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
The sample used for this is of a subtly ring-modulated piano sound being played in a short figure (yet another mini-sequence). As w/ the preceeding 2 sequences’ samples, it’s broken into 8 variations w/ different excerpts & loopings from the intitial sample. As w/ Sequence 113. (not described here but described in a text that covers all of the sequences that I may publish one day), the attack time is set for the maximum fade-in. This is a polyphonic sample so that each of the variations can be played as tone clusters. As usual, since each sample is a mini-sequence, the playing of more than 1 “note” of the same sample simultaneously creates phasing that yields composite melodies that change as the loops cycle thru their permutational relationships. 6 of the clusters are 4-note & 2 are 3-note. As usual, again, the 8 note polyphony limit causes a sudden cessation of the least recently played cluster when a new cluster supercedes it.